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This Extinct Tree Has Grown Anew From Ancient Seeds Discovered By Archaeologists

The Judean date palm tree was one of the most common and recognizable tree for people living in the Middle East for thousands of years. 3,000 years ago, people cultivated it for their fruit and for the shade given. The tree was a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, noted multiple times in the Old Testament.

But when the Roman Empire marched into the region in 70 AD, forests of the trees were torched in an attempt to starve out the locals. The trees were driven to extinction, all for the sake of conquering a foreign land.

Centuries later, a small stockpile of the seeds was unearthed in Herod the Great's palace in Israel. They were found in a 2,000 year old clay pot. For 40 years after their discovery, the seeds were kept in a drawer at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. Then, in 2005, Elaine Solowey, a botanical researcher, planted one to see if it would sprout.

“I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?” said Solowey.

In time, she would be proven wrong. The ancient seed sprouted, producing a sapling the world hasn't seen for centuries. It is the oldest known seed to germinate and sprout a tree.

Today, the tree continues to thrive. It's even begun to produce flowers, a sign that it is ready to reproduce and repopulate. The tree can likely be cross-bred with palms closely related to it, but we shouldn't expect any of their famous fruits to be produced for a while.

Solowey is now tasking herself with reviving the other seeds found in Herod the Great's palace.

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